The Delhi High Court today sought the Centre’s response on a plea by Digital Radio Broadcasting Ltd, which runs Red FM, against the Government’s decision denying it permission to participate in the third phase of FM auction.
A Bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva also permitted Red FM, a company associated with Kalanithi Maran-promoted SUN TV, to participate in the mock auction scheduled for today.
The court issued notices to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and sought its reply by July 24 when the Bench will hear the matter.
Meanwhile, the central government standing counsel Sanjiv Narula told the court that the ministry was not in favour of deferring the auction, which is currently scheduled for July 27, as the entire process takes two-three months and everything has been lined up.
Counsel also said that the Government had extended the stage II licences till September this year only after which the channels would have to migrate to stage III.
Narula also said that the Government is looking into who is controlling the company and where it gets its funds from for which it was necessary to look into the shareholding.
The Bench was of the view that if the Government wanted to look into shareholding, it should have said so in the tender document. “It should have been spelt out in black and white,” it said.
The Government’s submissions came in response to the court’s query yesterday whether it was willing to defer the auction process so that the matter can be heard properly.
Yesterday, the court had termed as “vague” and open to “misuse” the Centre’s process for granting security clearance to radio channels for participating in stage III FM auction.
The court had said “things are not spelt out as to what you (Centre) mean by security clearance. The clause (requiring company and directors of radio channel to be security cleared) is vague. It can be misused.
“Nobody knows what you mean by security clearance...In a democracy, you have to move towards greater transparency and not secrecy,” the bench had said to the government after it had contended it is not required to inform the company about the criteria of security clearance.
Digital Radio’s application to participate in the auction was rejected as it was not given security clearance by the Union Home Ministry on the ground that Kalanithi Maran, a shareholder in the radio channel, was facing prosecution in a money laundering case, as per their plea.
Our Delhi Bureau adds :
A spokesperson of Red FM said: “We have always maintained that our business is a professionally managed entity and it’s unfair to penalise a well-run, successful business and its employees.
We also strongly believe that not allowing us to participate in the Phase 3 auctions is an attack on media freedom.”